While countries that proudly claim to be 'democracies' are supposed to bask in the beauty of different voices and ideas, the reality seems quite different. All too often, its small pockets of people pushing limited agendas that get access to reporters, policy makers and politicians. In fact, the only time that the voices of most people are clearly heard by those in power is through the ballot box - and even then in some countries they're robbed of that chance. Yet when people are given the opportunities to speak out, their stories can be so strong that they can challenge our prejudices and demand that we leave the comfort of our lounge rooms and cars to see the world in a different way. This - the first program for the New Year - is the 50th we've produced. What better way to mark this anniversary than by revisiting some of the real stars of Radio New Internationalist: our guests.
From South Africa, as Kameelah Rasheed explains why, for her, wearing the hijab can be so liberating, she shakes up some stereotypes about how it oppresses Muslim women;
From Canada, where Abdullah Almalki - who was tortured in Syria for 482 days - sets out his government's complicity in appalling human rights abuses;
From Afghanistan, Sohaila talks in detail about her daily life, and how - if the military interventions into her country were ever really about liberating Afghan people - then they have completely failed.
From Malawi and Zambia, Walter Otis Tapfumaneyi, from Panos Southern Africa, describes Radio Listening Clubs - a remarkably democratic initiative through which discussions amongst rural Africans are recorded, then played on national radio programs to relevant parliamentarians or policy makers for their response.